Metastatic Brain Tumor: Surgery restores patient's balance

October 02, 2014
Beverly Naclerio had been successfully battling cervical cancer for a year-and-a-half when she began to have trouble with her balance and memory. 

“I had lost my equilibrium, but I had also lost my way,” says Naclerio, a 74-year-old resident of Culver City and retired city employee. “I’d walk through my own complex and not know where I was going.” 

Naclerio’s doctors had concerns that her cervical cancer had metastasized to her brain causing her memory and balance problems as well as visual loss. An MRI confirmed that diagnosis. Naclerio had an egg-sized tumor – a Metastatic Carcinoma – in the region of her right occipital lobe causing severe distortion of the adjacent brain. Further testing confirmed that the tumor had severely affected her vision with almost complete loss of her left field of vision in both eyes.    

Naclerio was referred to Daniel F. Kelly, M.D., Director of the Brain Tumor Center at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. Naclerio was to undergo a Craniotomy in order to remove the tumor. At first she was apprehensive: “’My god,’ I thought, ‘this guy is going to open up my brain.’” But her initial meeting with Dr. Kelly allayed her concerns.  

“He gave you no doubts that you knew what he was doing. I trusted him completely,” Naclerio says. 

Naclerio underwent the four-hour procedure at Saint John’s Health Center, accompanied by several good friends. “I don’t remember very much, other than ‘one, two, three, and it was over,’” she recalls.  

The tumor was removed by Dr. Kelly through a small bony opening near the back of her head over the occipital lobe. Using Surgical Navigation (like GPS for the brain) and microscopic visualization, Dr. Kelly was able to precisely localize the tumor and completely remove it, alleviating the pressure on Neclario’s brain.  

Naclerio’s balance and memory issues resolved within days of surgery and her left-sided vision has been completely restored. After the surgery, she underwent a month of radiation therapy to ensure the tumor didn’t return.  

Although Naclerio is still battling cancer, she has been able to maintain much of her normal life, enjoying her involvement as a Toastmaster and working as a cabaret singer.  

“I have a lot of friends. I keep myself busy,” she says